Dana Zupke couldn’t make sense of it. As the longtime head coach at Pinnacle High in Arizona, he saw a lot of kids fall through the cracks in football recruiting. That was the reality of college football these days. But Dorian Singer was not just any kid.
Zupke only coached the receiver for one season, but it was enough to know Singer was special. His hands, Zupke says, “were incredible.” The coach jokes that he may have bet a year’s salary on Singer throwing a 50-50 ball. “Just stuff full of levels,” he said.
Yet here Singer is in May of his senior year, his first and only at Pinnacle, without a Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer to his name. This has not always been the case. Texas offered. Iowa State as well. The receiver held out on a few others, namely one at Louisiana State, his dream school, but they never materialized. Then, for one reason or another, even his first offers dried up.
“It was a perfect storm, in a negative way, for Dorian,” explained Zupke.
Before emerging as one of the most prized receivers on the transfer market in a trade from Arizona to USC last season, Singer moved from Minnesota to Arizona with the hopes of picking up an offer or two in 2020.
It was a grim picture for any prospect in his position. The pandemic — and the extra year of eligibility the NCAA brought with it — made scholarships scarcer than ever. Getting attention from schools was not easy. He did not yet have a national profile. On paper, his measurables didn’t blow anyone away. Nothing about Singer was striking, yes, sir, no sir in reserved demeanor.
But Singer was sure it was him. So sure where he kept waiting, even though a spot never opened up at LSU. Even though Texas coach Tom Herman was fired, replaced by Steve Sarkisian, he decided not to accept his offer.
Zupke, looking for an explanation, asked if he would be guilty. Did he not do enough to help Singer? The receiver was surprisingly calm about his situation.
“I was stressed out for him,” Zupke said. “This kid is too good to leave my school without a scholarship.”
Singer’s options were limited in May 2021 as he considered his next steps. Northern Arizona, a Football Championship Subdivision school, pursued him relentlessly. Arizona also expressed interest, but did not have a scholarship to offer. If he wanted to play Power Five football, he would have to start as a preferred walk-on, hoping Arizona would stick around next season.
Dorian Singer rose to the top from his preferred walk-on by getting threatened in Arizona. He transferred to USC this offseason and is expected to make a big impact on the Trojans offense next season.
(Rick Scuteri/Associated Press)
At the time, Singer admits, he didn’t really understand what it meant to be a walker.
Zupke tried to convince him to go the FCS route. At Northern Arizona, he had a guaranteed scholarship. Probably the starting job too.
“But Dorian didn’t have that,” said Zupke. “He was confident enough in himself that, ‘I don’t have to settle for an FCS school.’ He wanted to prove himself at a higher level.”
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch kept his word. After the first season, Singer was put on scholarship. It wasn’t long after that to prove it was worth it.
By the time USC made the trip to Tucson late last October, Singer had already established himself as one of the Pac-12’s best pass catchers. Then, in its biggest scenario, it went completely nuclear. The Trojan threw for 141 yards and three touchdowns on seven catches, all with his Minnesota family and friends watching from the stands.
“Hard work goes a long way,” Singer said. “I believed in myself, and the results showed.”
This time, he had no problem attracting the attention of a university employee. Dennis Simmons, USC’s receivers coach, had seen enough.
“His catch radius, his body control was obviously off the charts in the game against us,” Simmons said.
When Singer walked into the transfer window, Simmons and assistant Luke Huard called him right after it opened. It didn’t take much convincing for Singer, especially after learning two other Arizona players, defensive end Kyon Barrs and cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace, were also considering transferring to USC.
USC’s offense, Singer explained, was perfect for his skill set. “They like to go deep, take deep shots,” he says. The idea of catching passes from a Heisman Trophy winner didn’t hurt either.
With Jordan Addison on his way to the NFL, Lincoln Riley needed an elite receiver capable of taking down opposing defenses. USC’s head coach didn’t have to look far for Singer, whose 14 catches of 20 yards or more last season were sixth among college wideouts.
Hard work goes a long way. I believed in myself, and the results showed.
— USC receiver Dorian Singer
Already this spring, it has earned a reputation for its reliability, Riley says.
“Awesome ball skills, you just have some catches, ‘Wow,'” Riley said. “It becomes a point where you’re a little surprised if it doesn’t get there, as hard as it sounds. He just finds a way.”
It’s a fitting sentiment for the Trojans’ new star wide receiver, who not long ago was without a single FBS offer.
“This process for me has been different for everyone else,” Singer said. “If you believe, things just happen.”